National park blaze finally encircled as more help arrives

Fire fighters survey the result of the fire break that was chopped around the blaze. The break is about three meters or nearly 10 feet wide.

The situation improved for the nearly 200 fire fighters trying to control the smoky bush blaze in the Parque Nacional Chirripó.

Sunday the fire crews managed to close the gap in a fire break and thereby contained the blaze. Crews are on the fire line overnight to see that the fire does not break out.

At 5:30 p.m. a helicopter from the Guatemalan air force arrived. The craft will be put into service today dumping water on the stubborn blaze. The helicopter also will be used to move crews and equipment.

Fire fighters appealed to the executive branch for more help Friday, and the Guatemalan helicopter was the result. The blaze remains in about 150 hectares in a rugged section of the Talamanca mountains

President Laura Chinchilla and Vanessa Rosales visited the area Saturday. Ms. Rosales is the president of the Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgo y Atención de Emergencias, which is directing the response to the fire.

Also involved is the Ministerio de Ambiente, Energía y Telecomunicaciones, which is in charge of the park system, and the Cuerpo de Bomberos, the professional fire fighters.

Officials said that there have been 27 forest and brush fires this year and 3,500 field fires. They said this was a record for the country. Firemen still are not certain how the most recent blaze started, but suspicion turns to campers or hunters.

The park blaze was not a spectacular event. Instead, the fire crawled along the ground by igniting the forest litter. Most of the problem was in trying to extinguish hotspots in trunks of fallen trees. Many of the trees are likely to survive.

Firemen faced smoky conditions and found themselves working in the daytime heat and the evening cold because of the park’s elevation.

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